“I would take the Northwest Passage”

Sailing in the footsteps of Amundsen

For Norwegians, Roald Amundsen is more than a hero. He’s an icon. Between 1903 and 1906, he led the first expedition to successfully traverse the Northwest Passage. On 14th December 1911, his crew would become the first to reach the South Pole. This past month, Rob (our Head of Special Projects) set sail on the Alma – a faithful replica of Amundsen’s vessel – around the rugged coastline of Norway. His son, Freddie, came along for the ride.

The purpose of Rob’s journey was twofold: first, out of a sense of sheer, unbridled curiosity. Second, to put the Alma through its paces; ahead of us booking you – our travelers – onto her for your own expeditions. We’ll get to that.

This is Rob’s story. And it could be yours.

RMJ Norway
RMJ Norway

A century in the making

Taking twelve years to build by hand, the Alma is a faithful replica of the Gjøa, Amundsen’s legendary vessel. Berthing a crew of up to twelve, you’ll eat and sleep in a large, shared cabin. We say “crew” because there are no passengers. Sailing the Alma is a satisfyingly hands-on experience. You need commitment, grit, and a sense of adventure. Everyone chips in.

You can tell from the images in this article. The Alma is the real deal. While it has its creature comforts – and is eminently safe and seaworthy – this is a true taste of the age of sail. Few adventures – and few expeditions – can match the sheer, strange excitement of this journey. “We were incredibly lucky to have this opportunity”, says Rob, “with icebergs towering over you and high cliffs falling straight into the sea”.

And it really is comfortable. While you’ll share a large, warm cabin, the berths are cosy – and the sense of camaraderie is immense.

Norway sailing
Norway sailing

Rope, wind, wood and sail

“Every day was a different experience”, explains Rob. “You can get involved in sailing this unique ocean yacht as much or as little as you like. Keeping watch, hoisting the mainsail, bringing in the mainsheet”.

By day, the Alma would pull close to the shore and weigh anchor, where the crew – Rob and Freddie – were guided inland by Harald, one of our legendary local guides. Together, they built (and slept in) ice caves. They ski-kited. They hiked, climbed and trekked.

By night, they lit bonfires and had BBQs on the beach – “all alone at the edge of the world”. It is simple; a type of travel boiled down to its expeditious essence – something that’s all too rare in today’s hyper-modern world.

Norway sailing
Norway sailing

Now, it’s your turn

Rob’s journey was a taster; a chance for him to get the measure of the Alma and what she can do.

This August, the Alma will be anchored in Greenland – and she needs a crew. This is an opportunity to charter one of the world’s most unique ocean-going yachts, getting to grips with the epic age of maritime adventure. Sailing the Alma today bears a striking resemblance to the experience of Amundsen and his crew, over a century ago.

Navigating the seas and shores of Greenland – the world’s largest island – you’ll traverse a route sailed by only four vessels a year. You’ll be out at the edge of everything. But you’ll also have the chance to head inland.

“This area has some of the remotest coastal landscapes on earth”, explains Rob, “you could even think of it as the Serengeti of the Arctic; inhabited by polar bears, walruses, belugas, bowhead and narwhal whales, as well as herds of wild reindeer”.

During the day, you can visit remote subsistence Inuit communities along the coast, hiking spectacular ridges, exploring far-flung glaciers, and kayaking – slidingly, serenely – among 200-meter icebergs.

Onboard, there’ll be three captains – who will do much of the heavy-lifting – and a chef. They’ll cook for all the crew. Your group would ideally be around ten people, with a minimum age of 12+. The Alma will suit adventurous, hands-on adventurers who want to experience a true taste of life at sea; just as it looked and felt a century ago.

“Greenland”, concludes Rob, “is truly unexplored, and there are very few places on Earth left like this. You’ll get a total sense of how immense nature and landscape can be”.

Norway sailing
Norway sailing

On the horizon

Beyond August, the Alma will be available for charter in Norway. She can also visit Svalbard. For all these trips, we can arrange any number of adventurous Scandinavian experiences – including sea-kayaking, climbing, glacier hiking, fishing, whale watching, and visits with local Inuit communities.

We can also pair these trips – Greenland, Norway, Svalbard – with inland Blink camps, Northern Lights hunting, remote lodges, foraging, Viking villages, Lofoten island expeditions. The full works. If you love exploration, and are game to get your hands dirty, then this expedition will be perfect for you.

“Picture it”, says Rob, “sailing into a fjord – without a sign of human habitation – and weighing anchor, rope knocking against wood, the ruffling fabric of the sails. Before you is a vast, wild land to explore. You can hear your heart beating. This is precisely what Amundsen must have felt”.

Push your horizons

Our Norway pages are packed with information, ideas and inspiration about heading to the far-flung edges of northern Europe.

Find out more